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Living the Questions

Living the Questions 150 150 Nicole

Have you ever had someone—a writer or speaker or person you respect—in your life that for you, for that time, everything that is said seems relevant, challenging and motivating? Oswald Chambers was that for me at one time, Amy Carmichael, Alan Hirsch at other times. These days, Richard Rohr’s meditations are speaking into me life and truth, and today’s is no exception. In it, he distinguishes between Myth and Parable:

Our “myth” is the symbol system out of which we think and operate. It is largely unconscious and pre-rational, which is probably why the word “myth” (ineffable or unspeakable) is used, even if commonly misunderstood. Everyone has a myth, even those who fear the word. We have to have our myth because it creates a sometimes-livable world and it provides the frame of reference necessary for sanity—or insanity if we have a destructive one. Myths create a habitable and meaningful world for us.

In contrast, a parable confronts our world and subverts it. It does not create but re-creates our destructive and illusory myths. It has a hard job, and so it usually does not call for discussion, debate, or questioning. Parable is not God-as-information. Rather it is God-as-invitation-and-challenge. A parable calls us to insight and decision. A parable doesn’t lead us to more and more mental analysis; it’s either a flashing insight or it’s nothing. It calls us more to decision and change of perspective. . . .

As Rainer Maria Rilke might later describe it, “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now.” (Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, 1934)

My friend, Dr. Keith Meyer, reframes Job’s struggle in a fresh way:

Job’s demand for certainty – an explanation for all life’s problems he doesn’t understand

  • JOB (Job 30:20) –  I demand an answer for all this I am wrongly experiencing – you just stare at me!!!
  • LORD (Job 38:1-3) – You can’t handle the truth – tell me how I created everything if you think an explanation will help?
  • JOB (Job 42:1-3) Forgive me…I spoke of things…”too wonderful for me”
  • LORD (42) You are right to ask…but you get ME…not just an explanation

This is discernment: possessing Christ, not merely an explanation. We are entering (well, inching closer to) the uncertain territory of church planting. We cannot see exactly how it will finally become such—as if there is one way to define it in the first! We do not know how all the details will be met (sufficient funds to pay our bills, get health insurance, supply the materials and support for communication publicizing and information, etc.) We are not even certain who will jump in with us, just yet! Still, while we do not have explanations or answers, we do have Jesus—and the power: Love, that having Jesus indicates. We cannot live a myth, false and stifling. We are motivated by parable, the parable of the talents, for instance. We will give what we have, so that God can give all the more that which we don’t. And the point is to live everything. We intend to live the questions now.

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About the author


Nicole Oliver Snyder’s expertise lies in the areas of leadership, gender issues, and mindfulness practice as it affects both. Leadership, particularly in an urban setting, requires community-relations skills, and an ability to clearly convey justice issues as they relate to felt, spiritual ones. Dr. Snyder is author of Leading Together: Mindfulness and the Gender Neutral Zone, and specializes in teaching mindfulness leadership development, formative spirituality, counseling, and Old Testament theology (emphasis on justice issues). She has a diverse background in international community-relations work combined with volunteer work in multi-ethnic communities, and with local institutions. She is an ordained Clergy; holds a BS in Human Development and Family Studies, w/Education Certificate, an MA-Counseling, MDiv Equiv., holds a Doctor of Ministry and Advanced Certification in Formative Spiritual Direction, and is a Licensed Professional Counselor (CO, MI).

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